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Artist of the Week — Mel Stoutsenberger

September 20, 2010 by · 2 comments

Interview with the photographer Mel Stoutsenberger by Elisaveta Baltova

Mel Stoutsenberger- “Even the most simple and everyday things become interesting if you look close enough”

Mel Stoutsenberger

You’ve done photography for a long time. How did you decide to start?

Both of my parents had 35mm cameras that they used during special family events and vacations. I was fascinated with how cameras worked and how images could be manipulated by adjusting the manual controls or using different kinds of film and film developer solutions. I immediately started reading books by the great photographers to learn as much as I could about creating good quality pictures. I loved experimenting by developing and printing my own film to see the final result. With every roll of film I learned more about how different film responded to light and how the chemicals transformed the image. I was hooked.
I took photography courses in high school and college and set up a dark room in my parents’ house so I could practice whenever I had the time.

What inspires you the most?

Looking at great photographs.

Do you listen to any music while taking photos? If so, what kind of?

Sometimes. I have a wide range of tastes when it comes to music but when I’m working it’s usually rock or something new from some emerging artists.

Which is more important: the brand of the camera, or the perseverance and the dedication of the person behind the camera?

I believe perseverance and dedication to the art has greater influence than which brand of camera or medium is being used. The most important thing is learning as much as you can about the equipment you’re shooting with so you have the control.

Have you traveled outside your home country? What made a big impression on you?

I have traveled outside the US a little and have brought home some pretty cool images. I was impressed by the people and their lifestyle more than anything. People adapt to their surroundings; their way of life, what they wear, how they build their homes and how they interact with one another intrigues me.

Is it hard to make it in the field of photography (in other words to become a famous photographer)?

I think its tough these days, there is a lot of competition in all branches of photography. I think digital cameras made shooting pictures more popular and much easier than film. The fact that you can see the finished product immediately has made it that way. Seems like everyone has some sort of camera, even on their cell phones!

Do you feel successful?
Yes, on a personal level.

Do you sell your photographs? Where can one find them and buy?

I’m a Contributing photographer at and Getty Images.

What do you like to do the most, other than taking photographs?

I enjoy woodworking—making cabinets and furniture for my home. I am in the process of remodeling my home and I do most of the work myself. I also like hiking, riding my mountain bike and surfing.

Is photography your one and only love?


What do you dream about?

I dream about some day traveling and shooting my way through Europe with my wife, a couple of Nikons, a few fast lenses and a lot of flash cards. I would start my trip in Rome.

What are your future plans?

To keep shooting pictures and learn how to create better images. I would also like to teach young people how to use a camera; give them a digital point and shoot, show them the basics and turn them loose. It’s amazing what I see on the photo sharing sites from the young people these days, they really have a lot of creativity! It just blows my mind!

I am constantly expanding my education in the area of photo editing and learning how to use many of the various applications and tools consistently being developed for photo manipulation and graphic design. I think it’s an important to keep up with new technology.

Do you think that the picture itself speaks not only about the object that was photographed, but also for the photographer?

Absolutely! We complement each other and you couldn’t have one without the other.

If you were given a chance to learn a field outside of photography, what other activity or work would you choose, if any?

I would be a cinematographer. Making movies has always been something I wanted to do since high school. I made a few super 8 short films for school class projects involving some of my fellow classmates and basic props; it was a lot of fun directing and editing them but it’s a lot of work at the same time. After high school I concentrated on shooting and developing more 35mm and medium format black and white and never had the time for movie making.

Do you think the process of taking pictures develops, in some way, the person that does it?

Sure. I look at things completely different from people who don’t shoot. I look at the way light travels and shines across objects and forms and how it creates shadows and voids. I look at patterns in nature and manmade objects. When I find a subject I would like to shoot, I check all the angles to see how I can give the scene more depth by using light. Maybe find a way to make it more appealing or give it some character or bring out its individual quality or personality. Even the most simple and everyday things become interesting if you look close enough or step back away from it far enough.
I also look for a way to tell a story or create a concept.

Mel Stoutsenberger:
“Taking pictures has been my passion since I was about 12 years old. Developing my own black and white shots progressed to Kodachrome, until I went digital about seven years ago. I never go anywhere without my camera! Construction supervision is my day job, which is how I came to “subspecialtize” in construction photography. My interests are very diverse, and I love exploring whatever my latest subject of interest is until I feel I’ve gained a great deal of technical ability before moving on to something new. Every new topic explored brings greater depth to all aspects of my photography.”

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